Skip to main content
8:00 pm
weekly column for "the washington post." then prime minister david cameron of the british house of commons. after that, a conversation with the outgoing minnesota governor, tim pawlenty. >> this week, our guest is warren brown, the columnist for "the washington post." . .
8:01 pm
>> the government is very involved. >> how did you get started reviewing automobiles? >> i had a very wise colleague at the washington post who told me that if i wanted to make it at the washington post, i had to develop a franchise. i had to do something no one else was doing and do it.
8:02 pm
and live with it. try to love it, if i could. so that is what i did. i was on a national desk when i petitioned to join a business staff. this was much to the chagrin of my editors who felt i was throwing away my career. i was lucky enough to have friendship with a guy who thought i was crazy but he gave me space to be crazy. so that helped. >> winded to first interested in automobiles? >> i have always been interested in automobiles. i grew up in new orleans. i had to sit in the back of the bus. that always bothered me. it always bothered my father.
8:03 pm
boarding a bus and having to sit behind a sign saying that no coloreds allowed beyond this point, freedom came when my parents bought their own cars. that was power. that was freedom. cars have always meant more to me than the sum of their parts. it they were a way to escape and see other worlds. they were a way for me to see my parents in charge of something rather than sitting behind a sign. >> how did your parents explain to you back in those days one this -- there is a division between white and black? what they did not. we went to catholic schools. i came home from high-school one day complaining to my father, who was a scientist for the
8:04 pm
science foundation and a teacher, complaining to him that the priest, one of my priest was a racist. this happened to be a priest that taught me geometry and chemistry. my father did not say anything. he told me to get my chemistry and my geometry books and to show him where i am in those books. i showed him and he wanted me to work a formula and i could not do it. he did not say anything. he told me to show him where i was in geometry. i showed him. and he looked at me and said that the priest may be a racist, but you are stupid. us as long as you are stupid, it doesn't matter if he is a racist. that was a lesson that's up with me. that sums up the entire way my
8:05 pm
parents dealt with race in new orleans. they said it was no excuse. we do not care if somebody calls you the "n" word. if you do not know what you were doing or if you are behaving improperly or you are not trying your best. some people may call that foolish. i call it a blessing. it is how we we're our children as well. not to base your life on what somebody else thinks of you, but to base your life on what you think of yourself and what you want for yourself and what you're doing for other people. >> what did you do differently after your father said you were stupid? bucks i never came home and told him that someone was a racist. if i had a complaint, i made
8:06 pm
sure that i have researched the complaint early before bringing it to him third. it was the best defense was to know what you were talking about before you started talking about it in his house. i study, that is what i did. i stopped worrying about what i thought the priest thought of me or did not think of me and i or did not think of me and i figured out what he was trying to teach me in the academic subject matter. so i studied, that is what i did. >> i read about you and it said that blacks could not take communion at the same church as the whites? >> we used to live in the lower ninth worard. and there was a st. mary's church around roman street.
8:07 pm
we could attend that church, but we normally, by tradition, had to stand in the back of the church, behind the benches. sometimes the priest would not serve you communion until the whites were served. my late friend, thomas brown jr., popped me on the back of the head after mass. to avoid that, we went to black catholic churches which were a true parish churches. it is just outside the french quarter. we would go there. those were black catholic churches. mostly run by priests and nuns.
8:08 pm
>> did you ever ask any priest or confront anybody in that church as to why you had to stand in the back and why you have to take communion after the whites? >> yes, i did. they said i had to learn obedience. i did not need to learn that kind of obedience. understandably, a lot of blacks that grew up with me who were baptized catholic and grew up with me, left the catholic church. even people in my own family. i never did. i married a woman who never did because we never really identified the teachings of the church with the way that some people practiced the teachings. so, we were able to separate that. i had good training. i remember on good friday, at
8:09 pm
holy redeemer, the nun was sister mary benson, and we had gone to morning mass and we were falling out of the church and white kids across the street, k,ich was a white only par started calling sister vincent a. nigger lover. we took offense to that. we got into fisticuffs with them. we thought that we were heroes. we got to the classroom and she told us how disappointed in us she was. that we have learned none of the teachings of the church, nothing about forgiveness, nothing about turning the other cheek, that we
8:10 pm
behave as hooligans first and catholics second. >> when we first asked you to come to the interview, we were talking about twqo things. the automobile stuff and the kidney operation. >> it is like i tell -- i have had to kidney transplants. a wonderful colleague of mine, martha mcneil hamilton, both transplants are still functioning in me. it has taught me that you have to try to take a vantage of light-ticket manager of life now. -- take a bandage of life now. -- advantage of life now.
8:11 pm
without going through pain, i do not regret it. >> go back. when did you have the operation? >> the first one was in 1998. that was my wife's transplant guest to me. my wife, marianne. the second one was in 2001, which was for martha hamilton. -- from martha hamilton. we worked together for a long time. she said that i needed another kidney and she said that she had two and that i could have won. -- one. we did the book. you have a copy right there. is "black and white and red all over: the story of a friendship ."
8:12 pm
we did that together. that was on behalf of the "washington post." >> how long have you been back from dialysis? >> almost two years, now. >> did the other kidneys fail? >> it stopped functioning as well as it should be functioning. to avoid other problems, which chose to go back on dialysis. >> so, are you going to go back on -- have another transplant? >> i don't know. my youngest daughter wants to give me her kidney. i am now 62-years old. i am doing quite well on dialysis this time round. i do not know if i want to put another life of someone i love,
8:13 pm
and i love both of those women and i love my daughter. i do not necessarily want to put another one of them at risk when i'm actually doing ok. >> how often do you have to go? >> i have to go to work three days a week. the only thing about going to dialysis has meant to me is that i have had to do something that martha and my wife, maryann have always criticized me for not doing, which is planning. i will be at the paris auto show. i will probably do dialysis at the american hospital in paris. in order to do that, i have to plan now. the only thing that this disease has done is make me grow up. [laughter] [laughter] before, i had an assist and who shakes her head because i never
8:14 pm
really tell her anything and she figures it out. i have begun to tell people things. it makes life easier for me and for everyone else. >> i can't-i read your book and i can't go without asking you this. if you have a kidney transplant, they do not remove your other kidneys from your body? what's no, i am a 4-factor right now. -- 4-packer right now. removing anything from the body requires another surgery. the doctors prefer not to do extra bit of surgery if it is not bothering you. they do not bother me. they have apparently shrugging or atrophied or something. >> as long as we are talking about this, we have a clip of
8:15 pm
you and your donor back in 2002. >> i no longer worrying about dying. if there is one thing you learn when you go through something like this is if you're going to die. regardless of whether or not the operation is successful or not. i have been spending a lot of time trying to answer that. basically, you try to love and live and work as hard as possible in the time that you have any do not make a big deal out of it. .ou go on 3 >> i do not know if i look the same, but that is still my thinking. i think of that even more now. >> the book, as you said, is
8:16 pm
"black and white and red all over: the story of a friendship ." where does that title come from? where does that title come from? >> it means that martha is why, i am black, but our internal organs are all covered by the same color blood. >> that also used to say that about a newspaper. what impact did either the whole experience from the race standpoint have on your life and martha's live in the book? >> the impact of race was that my siblings and i -- i had six
8:17 pm
brothers and sisters. we are not a sibling group of four. we could not have had better parents. we were lucky in our choice of parents. i had a father who had every reason to be angry, angry black man. he served in world war ii. fought in world war ii. medic andu.s. army ma try to get into too late university and they were not accepting blacks. i went to it xavier university. mother katherine took him under her wing and he became a
8:18 pm
teacher in catholic schools in louisiana, teaching science. i recall him telling me that blin she told him that if he could not become a doctor, maybe he could train future doctors. he took that to heart. he taught science in catholic school in louisiana and then he taught science for a long time in the black new orleans public schools. even when i and overseas, i may wind up in somebody's pharmacy and see a black person behind of there and wonder if the king from the united states. i will ask them where they grew up and they say new orleans and now ask if they know my father and they say that he taught him.
8:19 pm
it is the greatest amount of pride that he chose not to hate. pride that he chose not to hate. he chose to take the advice and he did train the black doctors of the future. that is a very special thing for me. >> you were sitting at a dinner party and somebody sitting next to you has an opportunity to talk to you, do they ask you what your favorite car is or do they ask you about your kidney operation? >> they usually ask what my favorite car is. i tell them that i really do not have a favorite car. i am not an automotive gigolo. most every car is good. i am extremely interested in alternatively powered electric cars. i love diesel. my favorite car is one that can
8:20 pm
give you the most hp, the most work, with the least fuel consumption. if you give me a car like that, then i am happy. >> who builds the best cars? what's everybody builds very good cars. good cars. people were getting on toyota's case during the summer. primarily because toyota -- they discovered that toyota to make mistakes. i had known that all along. i have been saying that for the past 10 or 12 years. they make mistakes. the few not believe me, see what the port of consumers say in japan. in the united states, we somehow have given for the the mantra of infallibility. that was nonsense. is that theylem
8:21 pm
started losing a grasp of quality. it started losing its grasp of infallibility. the media had always ignore them by and large. as a result, so did our government. toyota is as good as korea that has always been. always made the same mistakes it has always had. general motors had that quality. they made a lot of errors. the error was not the physical error, the error was the management error, pretending that you were not making mistakes when you make consumers suffer an being arrogant about it. it makes people angry and when they become angry they remember
8:22 pm
that for very long time. the current gm is of the old gm. the current gm is of the old gm. the current gm started coming about in the late 1990's when they started paying more attention to quality and started paying more attention to basically how to please their consumers. the gm cars that you see now that everyone thought that people are raving about did not this happen in 2008. that started happening 10 years ago. the question is, now that they learned a painful lesson, will they continue with good management? here is still hoping that is the
8:23 pm
case. >> how many people do what you do in american newspapers? >> is hard to tell. -- it is hard to tell. >> there are not very many, are they? >> i am an odd fish. >> i am an odd fish. dan miller at the "usa today" always had this idea of the car industry is not the sum of its parts. there is a movement going on. i bring all of my historical baggage to cover it. people ask why you you are so willing to give general motors and ford a break. i have no problem in meeting it. i give them a break because they
8:24 pm
were the companies to give my people a break. arguable that we would not have a black middle class if we did not have general motors, ford and chrysler. if you go to detroit, today, to the old automotive neighborhoods, the difference in those neighborhoods in 1950 and 1960 is that the blacks that were working in the plants back then wanted their kids to run the plants. they wanted their kids to design the cars and to be lawyers and so on. one of our chief foreign correspondents at the "washington post" is a guy that grew up in that kind of family.
8:25 pm
did i have affection for those companies, yes. companies, yes. does that affection translate into turning a blind eye, no. i was probably more harsh towards their feelings than people who fancied themselves as being objective and having a feeling for those companies. it is our legacy as americans free. the idea that you would throw away manufacturing superiority because you're just chasing the box and you do not care where you're producing, the idea that you would throw leadership' infuriated me. i was angry for those companies
8:26 pm
for a long time. i was also willing to give them a break once i was convinced that you had people that actually cared about turnout top products. >> i tried to find all kinds of numbers. which country in the world today it manufactures the most automobiles? >> i think you have to say japan. but mostly for export. china is coming up very fast. we are still in there, but not nearly as much as we used to be. >> how do we relate to china? how many americans are over there build and cars? every company for the exception of chrysler.
8:27 pm
general motors is the biggest company in china right now. you it is the best-selling nameplate -- buick is the best- selling nameplate. it was not until i went there that i thought that there could be a good buick. i did not get it. why are you guys making great goods here, but lousy bewick's at home? if you can afford to buy any kind of a car, it says something about you. honoring face is a very important thing, and oddly enough, g.m.'s steps up to it in china while gm north america was sitting on its laurels and not doing that.
8:28 pm
gm north america and gm china, in my idea are one. that is a good thing. now we are getting the new buick regal. it is a midsized car. i credit gm china for somehow transforming its culture to gm north america and we in for deborah -- reinvigorating gm america. >> how for the travel to see an automobile being manufactured? >> i travel the world. that is one reason i love this job. i went all over, looking for cars. all over russia, not all over russia, but moscow and places like that, looking at their automobile industry.
8:29 pm
looking a production and the car industry down there. is a fascinating industry. europe is kind of like a second home. germany and france and japan for it is a fascinating industry. whoever said that travel is the best way to eradicate your biases knew what they were talking about. >> new travel to germany, the first thing you see are those [unintelligible] they were two strokes. five years later, we went back and were gone. you had a car from russia. story is interesting that two years after the wall
8:30 pm
came down, i went to look at bmw. there were three or four little trivants.l arndt' i asked what was with the tri vant. they said that was people from east germany that were coming to look for a job. the bmw executives said the company could not hire them because it would be culture shock. bmw is constantly going. he did not stop. if something breaks, you fix it. apparently, some of these guys from east germany were not accustomed to that. if something broke or fell down, the shutdown the line and
8:31 pm
come back the next day. >> in your job, how you protect yourself from being schmoozed to death by all of these car people? >> people like you, buyers. i see myself as a public servant. i am serving the people out there that are buying cars and trucks i am their servant. that basically means that i have to keep them happy. i have to keep them happy. i have to look up for their interests and they tell me what their interests are. their interests are. i cannot be anybody's boy from a manufacturing the point. i have to serve the people.
8:32 pm
if they do not like something, they are not the least bit shy to let me know. if i run a whole bunch of expensive cars, say three or four in a row, they say "hey, knucklehead, do you realize this is the recession? what are you doing? right about something that we can afford tomorrow." so, i listen to them. my readers keep me honest. the buying public keeps me on this. if they do not like it, then let me know. >> what is your take on general motors being 60 percent owned by the american government? >> if there were a 60% owned by the american government and we
8:33 pm
would not be talking about general motors, would we? it was a shot to see the country go -- see the company go into bankruptcy. i was never really worried about gm going into bankruptcy because i knew the work that gm had been doing on new products for the past five years. but the tug of gm went into bankruptcy, it was a completely different general motors treated this is what i mean by that. toss to general motors. this is what i mean by that. the spirit had completely changed. we would go to detroit to do interviews at gm and you could hear the shutters coming down.
8:34 pm
we could not speak to engineers without having public-relations people around us. these days, the stylists and the engineers are calling you. we want to show you what we've got. there is a sense of pride at the place. they really believed in what they're doing. management finally has gotten common sense enough to understand that if you hire someone to be an engineer, maybe you should let her be an engineer. let her do her best work. and pay her for it. encourage her. so, that gm, that is a gm that .ent into bankruptcy
8:35 pm
rick rick wagner -- coolepoor wagner. he did everything he possibly could. he did everything he possibly could do, putting most of his head offices on improved products, improved product quality, throwing billions of dollars into it, taking along of loans and that part of his reign was successful. the part of wagner's ring that was a failure was that he was too nice of a guy. he could not bring himself to shut the plants as quickly as they should have been shut. he could not bring himself to get rid of individuals that should have been gotten rid of. he could not bring himself to fire people that he probably should have fired.
8:36 pm
so, he got fired. not a fair live. >> what is your take on why ford did not have to get money from the government? what's because, -- >> because when you are already had over heels in debt, you are not exactly going to rush out to put yourself in more debt. put yourself in more debt. ford had the good fortune of failing before gm and chrysler. it had become since of listening to whoever said that you had to bring in new management and they brought in the new manager and they would not let him be himself. he threw out what they did not
8:37 pm
want to throw out. he cut what they did not want to cut. indeed for everything into new products. that product is an excellent product. so, ford could not borrow more money because they were too heavily in debt. they had fixed the problems that got him into trouble. could they have used the government's money? yes, but they were wise enough to say no. to say no. they got the favorable black, -- lowback.e blac they were internal long before general motors. they borrow their way into new
8:38 pm
products. they could not borrow more money and were smart enough not to take a handout. >> looking back on chrysler, why did five or first by them and why did the financial operation take it over and then why did fiat get into it? >> ego. >> is just plain ego? >> plan eagle. plain ego.g chrysler had been shopping itself around, looking for a partner. bob eaton and lee iacocca had done a good job of making
8:39 pm
chrysler sellable. using the first bailout money back in the 1980's, bringing chrysler back and developing a good portfolio. making chrysler a renewed moneymaker. dialer chrysler -- daimler chrysler, they used chrysler to expand in united states and put their product everywhere except, the same thing happens in a dysfunctional family. sisters and a and b go off and do everything and chrysler is the problem child, but now you are bringing chrysler into the family. yet people at mercedes-benz who said that they would have nothing to do with them.
8:40 pm
there would not give them engines or anything. they did not want chrysler near anything that says mercedes-benz for it was like a dysfunctional family. fiat.omes the i contend that the only reasons fiat once chrysler is because of dodge. have entryt really into the truck market in the truck market is for to start growing again as the economy starts growing again. their entry into chrysler gives them some of the best of trucks in the world. yea for the fiat. the media looked at it as chrysler needing small cars.
8:41 pm
they will get the fiat 500 when gas prices go down. it makes chrysler a little bit less of a deal in the not states for chrysler. but it makes those big dodge trucks and that is a great deal for fiat. >> 10 years from now, project what you have seen about oil, gas and the electric car. i have seen new white not so many great things about the prius. >> prius is not so much the answer as technology is the answer. it is not. when you look at beginning to
8:42 pm
end of what it takes to maintain it, you're spending more in terms of energy than you are on a hummer. that is the reality. electric cars, i love them. particularly if you could get something like a tesla going. it is a great neighborhood car. no pollution, elector. energy has to come from someplace. if you want to know where energy comes from, go to energy-go to west virginia and look at those mountainsides -- go to west virginia and look at those mountainsides. what are we looking at engineers? we are looking at a combination of things. we are looking at electric, gas /electorate, natural gas and propane, but you are probably
8:43 pm
still looking at a majority market of fossil fuels. a more intelligent use of those fossil fuels, and gasoline and diesel engines, lighter weight materials and that sort of thing. there is no silver bullet out there. if you want a silver bullet and you want to scare people, then why not nuclear? why not? it works. in france, a lot of their electricity is nuclear power electricity and it works. why not put it in a car. never mind. [laughter] --let's go back to the days personal stuff, here. seventh grade, you started
8:44 pm
writing gov. jimmy davis, the singing governor, the so-called author of "you are my sunshine." what was it that moved you to write governor davis? >> the schools in the world for being integrated at that time. as punishment, the federal government said they would stop a black schoolteachers. >> why? >> i never had the opportunity to ask him. >> he was of course you could be. >> i think it was a racial split. i never did understand that. >> was he playing for votes? what i think he was playing for votes.
8:45 pm
-- >> i think he was playing for votes. my father was a very proud man. this was around christmas time. my father is a very proud man. very, very, very proud man. >> is he still alive? >> no, he died about 12 years ago. he was not a person to ask for handouts. handouts. i could see the pain in the her in his eyes. he would not say anything about that. i took it upon myself to write gov. davis in nasty letter telling him a bunch of other things and telling him how he was hurting our family with this to the policy. to the policy. the mistake i made was that i mailed my water without letting
8:46 pm
my father read it first. i mailed -- i mailed the letter without letting my father read it first. but he was proud. >> did you ever get an answer? >> from gov. davis? >> yes. >> know. no. >> this is from july, 2007. i have been accused of stridency, a thumping my chest and shouting that i am right. the charge has come from spouse and children, friends and acquaintances and for more than a few of my fine editors at the "washington post," one of whom wondered about me. i do not know if you remember that column. what led to you starting that column? >> i probably would have gone into another diatribe.
8:47 pm
it was a diatribe for lead to a diatribe. -- prelude to a diatribe. >> why with pride and with contrition? what i have often been accused of opening my mouth when i should have kept it shut. i stand guilty. sometimes with contrition because sometimes i should have kept it shut. as they say in the catholic church, it is a level lot easier to seek forgiveness of them ask permission. >> in your book, you get a kid in your book to a lot of women and your son.
8:48 pm
-- you dedicated your book to a lot of women and your son. what are they doing in their lives? >> the girls are partners and a law firm -- in a law firm. my son has chronic epilepsy and a lot of brain damage as a result of that, so we are trying to work with him to give him into an independent living program so that he can have more life by himself. >> and your wife, mary ann, she gave you that kidney back in 1989. >> yes. i think it was 1998. i think it was 1998. >> she is a fine woman. she was insistent on getting her kidneys.
8:49 pm
regardless of the pain, medical inconvenience or anything. it did not cross her mind. she loved thme. here is my kidney, take it. the impact about losing a kid, i never saw anyone so devastated. and she was absolutely devastated. devastated. her transplant only lasted two years or so. she was depressed. for a long time. >> after it didn't work? >> the hardest time in my life was telling mary and that i was losing her kidneys. because i knew how devastating it would be to her. and it was devastating for her.
8:50 pm
it told the a lot about her. -- did told me a lot about her. one friend i cannot mention because she is an official from chile. she was in our kitchen with marianne and maryann terms to and says that she was really happy that she was giving her -- giving her kidneys. she said that she does
8:51 pm
she said that she does understand that her kidneys was all she was giving warren. >> what about when the second to be filled? >> martha's kidney was like this. we have been working together for a couple of years after she gave me her kidneys. it is like having a second wife in the office. you go out to lunch and ask for your warm to the -- as what you are going to eat. you cannot have any of that because you have part of me any. -- meet in you. -- me in you. when they give you a part of themselves, they are doing more than giving you a part of
8:52 pm
themselves. they have a long obligation to live up to that. the recipient has a moral obligation to do everything in his or her power to take care of that gift. that was another part of helping me to grow up, understanding that not only did marianne or martha give me a physical part of themselves, they gave me something else of themselves and i owe them. owe as in i have to return a gift of love by how i behave. the people who are receiving the gift of a transplant, and the one thing that i wish they would understand is that it is far different than receding-than
8:53 pm
receiving a car park. your receiving a part of a life -- you are receiving a part of a life. as a recipient, you have to honor those people with how you live. >> when you are at the end of life, with renal failure, medicare has to pay for it? what's it is a complicated thing. -- >> it is a complicated thing. insurance companies want to know how long you have been on dialysis curren. it does not matter how rich you are or what you were doing.
8:54 pm
we talk about a public health care plan. i am on a public health care plan. 95% of the people who are receiving dialysis right now are on a federal health-care program. i go to dialysis three days a week, up 3.5 hours per session. that is $800 per session. medicare, for the most part, pays that or will be paying that was my private insurance runs out. you have numerous other people who are not as nearly as fortunate as i am to be an employee of the "washington post." we are not rich but we are not poor. we are obama rich.
8:55 pm
people who have private insurance that will take care of it, most of the people on dialysis today are funded by the federal government. you will not find one of them that says that they do not want the federal government paying for this because without it, we would died. dialysis is now so routine that you can schedule your life around it. but without a, you die. >> you mentioned earlier, what you want to do? what's the question that is frequently asked me -- i was the poster child for a kidney transplants.
8:56 pm
they want to ask if i am cured. no, i am not cured. if you read the bible, eventually you died. and so will live. -- and so will i.. do you hang your head and feel bad about it? how do you think about it? the way that i think about it is that you have to look at every moment, particularly every gift of love as the ultimate gift. i have had too many gifts of love. it has extended my life. it is extending my life now. the question is, what you do with the extension? if it is just an extension in you do not make a difference, then walked out is the extension?
8:57 pm
so i want to write about that. i may do it with martha if she is willing. if not, i will try to do it alone. i hope i can do it with martha. >> warren brown has been our guest, in his book is "black and white and red all over: the story of a friendship." can you still get it? >> you can still get it on amazon. >> thank you for your time. >> thank you, i appreciate it. >> for a dvd copy of this program call 1-877-662-7726. for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at q& episodes are also available as podcasts. podcasts. >> tonight, on prime minister's
8:58 pm
questions, british prime minister david cameron talks about border security. then, a conversation without going minnesota gov. tim pawlenty and his presidential bid. our coverage continues with sarah palin and i will republican dinner. following that, another chance to see "q&a" with "washington post cars"column , warren brown >> lindsay gramm is the keynote speaker at a forum on terrorism posted by the american enterprise institute. live coverage starts up 12:30 p.m. eastern on c-span.
8:59 pm
>> when the conservatives were in opposition, but regularly complained about the fact that prime minister's questions is only once a week. now that the prime minister knows just how enjoyable the experience is, does he plan to bring it back to twice a week? >> it is actually one of the few things that tony blair did that i the early approval. -- that i thoroughly approval. -- approve of. >> prime minister david cameron square off with. harmon on human trafficking in the uk. the prime minister also answered questions on whether question time should be held twice a week and then housing spending cuts. and then housing spending cuts.
disc Borrow a DVD of this show
info Stream Only
Uploaded by
TV Archive
on 9/20/2010